Anorexia Anecdote (8)

To help Antoaneta understand emotions about sexual abuse in her childhood, I began by asking her to imagine how she would feel watching a child she cares about growing up exactly as she did.  Most of my childhood stress survivors spent years learning to suppress feelings connected to their abuse.  As a result, they find it difficult to consciously connect with those emotions.  But if they imagine the same experience being inflicted on an innocent child, usually they begin to experience those long-buried emotions.  Once they have this connection, the next step, when they feel ready, is to write about what they are feeling.  Writing has an almost magical ability to pull out emotions of which people are only slightly aware.

A virtuous cycle often begins when writing is paired with the concept described earlier (Anorexia Anecdote 6) about developing a patient’s self-esteem.  As self-image improves, the sense of having been wrongly treated in the past grows and this facilitates emotional expression.  The emotional expression then leads to greater recognition of how much the person has overcome which further supports their self-image as heroes.

After six months, Antoaneta’s virtuous cycle was well under way and we agreed she was ready to return to her primary clinician.  Her weight was 11 lbs (5 kg) higher than when we started and still rising.  I was concerned (somewhat fearful actually) about relapse, so I looked up her weight on the computer-based medical record every month for nearly a year but she has continued to do well for nearly five years now.

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